ILO Finds Harper Tories Guilty of Breaking International Law (Again)

Another ruling from the International Labor Organisation against the Conservative government for violations on labour rights.

Toronto (08 Nov. 2013) - The International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association has found the Canadian Conservative Government guilty of contravening ILO conventions on Freedom of Association, the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining in its Bill C-33, the so-called Protecting Air Services Act of March, 2012. This Act took away the right to strike from both the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) and Pilots Union (ACPA) at Air Canada.

Canada has one of the worst rankings of member states of the ILO on labour rights

Since 1982, Canada’s record with respect to the number of complaints submitted to the ILO’s Freedom of Association Committee is one of the worst of the 183 member States of the ILO, with unions in Canada filing more complaints than the national labour movements of any other country. There have been 85 ILO complaints filed against Canadian federal and provincial labour legislation since 1982. Of those 85 complaints, the ILO has ruled on 80 cases and found that freedom of association principles had been violated in 73 of the cases.

ILO has ruled the Conservative Bill C-33 which takes away the right to strike for pilots and machinists at Air Canada violates Freedom of Association, the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining

The ILO Committee accepted the IAM complaint that the legislation was biased, unbalanced and punitive towards the workers involved, violating workers’ collective bargaining rights and freedom of association.  It explicitly rejected the Harper Government’s claims that the law was required by economic necessity and the need to protect an essential service and “urges the Government, in the future, to give priority to collective bargaining.”

The ILO report said that Bill C-33 made it illegal for members of the IAMAW and ACPA to exercise their right to strike under the Canada Labour Code and imposed “final offer” arbitration based on criteria clearly favouring the employer.  Union members and officers faced exceptional harsh penalties for any failure to actively comply with the legislation.

IAMAW Canadian General Vice-President Dave Ritchie hailed the report saying, "We call on the Government of Canada to honor the right of freedom of association and collective bargaining for Air Canada’s workers who have been impacted by Bill C-33, the draconian law that trampled on their rights.” Ritchie added, “rather than serving as a beacon of light in upholding international labor rights, this Canadian government appears to be in the dark.”

ILO has requested the Harper government avoid using back-to-work legislation, putting restraints on arbitrator decisions and penalties against unions for representing its members

In agreeing with the IAMAW, the Committee requested that the Canadian Government, “make every effort in the future to avoid having recourse to back-to-work legislation…and to limit its interventions to ensuring the observance of a minimum service, consistent with the principles of freedom of association." The Committee also singled out the Act’s restraint on the arbitrator to render a decision, as well as penalties for the IAMAW and its representatives for violating the Protecting Air Services Act.

The ILO decision follows a similar ruling with respect to the Harper Government’s 2011 legislation affecting bargaining between the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and Canada Post.

The IAMAW is challenging the constitutionality of Bill C-33 in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

The ILO is a tripartite (business/labour/government) agency of the United Nations.  Its Constitution recognizes the principle of Freedom of Association.  Its Convention 87 (ratified by Canada) protects the right to strike).  Its Convention 98 (not yet ratified by, but still binding on, Canada) protects the right to organize and bargain collectively.

More information: 

Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights - ILO Complaints Directory

Machinists Union Canada


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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